Airtel Nigeria has announced the acquisition of new 5G spectrum and additional spectrum for its 4G network for a price of $316.7 million. With this acquisition, the company can now deploy a 5G network and expand its 4G services in Nigeria.
5G – 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band. According to the GSMA, this is often the most attractive band for 5G networks globally.
4G – 2x5MHz in the 2.6GHz band, the usual standard for 4G.
For the uninitiated, every wireless activity: television, radio, calls, text messages, video streaming, instant messaging, travels through radio waves called spectrums that are controlled by a country’s government. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Overseas Spectrum for Telecommunications in Nigeria.
If you think of spectrums as baskets, you’ll realize you can’t fit that many calls, texts, and streaming into one spectrum. When a spectrum reaches its maximum capacity, it would have to purchase more spectrum from the government like Airtel is doing now.
Recall that in 2021, Airtel Nigeria, a subsidiary of Airtel Africa, joined the 5G spectrum auction along with eventual winners MTN and Mafab Communications, but withdrew when the price crossed a certain threshold. By December 2022, Airtel emerged as the sole bidder and the NCC awarded the 5G license.
Opportunity for Airtel
While Nigeria’s internet users grew to 84 million in 2022, it represents only 38% of the population, showing that there is still room for improvement. Airtel, whose largest African market is Nigeria, says the acquisition will allow it to expand its network capabilities and roll out 5G to keep pace with the growth in data usage in the country.
The promise of 5G is high-speed internet connectivity that promises to enhance our internet experience and unlock various opportunities in Nigeria’s digital space.
According to Ogunsanya, CEO of Airtel Africa, says that 5G will be essential for Nigeria to achieve its market potential in the growth of mobile services and digitization at the national level.
However, Airtel will face competition from MTN Nigeria and Mafab, which have already acquired 5G licences. MTN has already rolled out 5G in the country and faces challenges in rolling out the technology, particularly in rural areas where 4G phone penetration is low and rollout costs are high.
Airtel, like MTN, will be launching a home broadband service and it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against the competition in the 5G race. However, the competition will be good for us, the customers.